How to Fight Speaking Anxiety

Why does speaking anxiety occur, and how can one overcome this problem? Speaking anxiety arises for five common reasons: we feel we aren’t ready to execute the traumatizing speech; emotions make us feel overwhelmed or pessimistic; we know and feel the negative responses to anxiety, such as blushing, shortness of breath, or rapid heart rate; we realize that the audience is always judging us, which causes us to strive for perfection. These five reasons are explained in the acronym B.A.S.I.C. (Behavior, Affect, Sensations, Imaginary, Cognition).

There are 4 simple ways to overcome the dreaded speech anxiety. Step one is to practice the speech over and over again. Practicing in the classroom or auditorium where you’re giving the speech will help you become familiar and feel comfortable with the surroundings. You could also practice your speech in front of a group of friends or family to help you get used to people watching you. Step two is to visualize yourself in a positive way. If you imagine the teacher at the back of the room holding up an A+ and the audience cheering for you, you are more likely to believe in yourself. Step three is as simple as breathing, literally. Breathing from your chest causes shortness of breath, which makes you more likely to faint (that’d definitely be a memorable presentation.) Breathing from the diaphragm, however, calms your body and makes oxygen flow more smoothly through your bloodstreem. The last step is to firmly plant your feet to ensure confidence. If the audience sees you swaying side-to-side and staring at the ceiling, they’re more likely to judge your appearance.

According to psychological studies, Americans fear public speaking more than death itself. If one thinks of the worst case scenarios before the day of their speech, it turns out that things could always be worse than what they visualized. The simplest way to defeat it is to recognize how you respond to the anxiety so you can learn to overcome it. The audience may be judging your every move, but if you yourself know that your giving it the best you have, then their opinions don’t matter.

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